Cope with Hope: Dealing with Depression after a Loss
by David Garcia
Coping with loss can be difficult. There is a natural process we undertake while grieving, but sometimes those feelings can become overwhelming, and can eventually take over your other senses needed to function in everyday life. Understanding and analyzing your symptoms and thoughts can lead to the correct strategies on the path to healing.
The first thing to recognize is that loss can occur in many forms. Different types of loss can include:
- Losing your job
- Death of a pet
- Moving from your childhood/family home
- Divorce or separation from significant other
- Shattered hopes from a lost dream
Understanding Your Experience of Loss
Loss leads to grief. The more significant the loss, the more severe your loss reaction will be. Grief is your body’s natural response, which takes form in your emotional suffering after a loss. How you grieve depends on many factors, including:
- Your personality
- The type and significance of the loss
- Your coping style
- Your faith and resilience
- Your life experiences
Like most things, with healing there is work to be done. It’s important to remain patient and cut yourself some slack. Just like each person can show grief in different ways, each person copes with grief in different ways, and each way warrants its own timetable.
Grief vs. Depression
There are many similarities between grief and depression, but there are significant differences to take note of. You may be depressed if:
- Your intense feelings of grief continue almost all the time. Grief can have mutable symptoms or seasons of intensity followed by seasons of relief.
- Your isolation isn’t exclusive. Depression can lead to neglect even in the most significant relationships in your life, whereas people who are grieving still may accept support from loved ones.
- You’re lacking a positive self-image, have feelings of worthlessness or self-hatred.
- You’re frequently self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
- You’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.
- You start hearing voices, believe in false things, or if your eyes start playing tricks on you. A small percentage of bereaved people experience hallucinations that are comforting, for instance a sense of their loved one’s presence, or even scent. This is not inherently pathological, but if you are experiencing hallucinations that are causing distress, it could be a sign of depression.
How to Deal with Loss and Depression
There are strategies in dealing with loss and depression. One of the most significant factors is taking care of yourself. Helping yourself mentally and physically can be a tremendous boost in the grieving process or coping with depression. Some ways to do that:
- It is imperative to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in regularly, especially when you feel the least motivated to workout. Exercises can include taking a nature walk, going for a swim, working out in your garden, vacuuming the house, or opting for the stairs instead of the elevator
- Invest in a hobby. Sometimes a distraction, even if it’s brief, can help your mental state. Take a cooking class, pick up some books of your favorite author’s from the library, or start a blog. Finding ways to express yourself can be vital to the healing process. And if you’re an older adult, use the time to connect with a grandchild by sharing something you love. Spending time with someone in a younger generation can be refreshing and rejuvenating. Whether you love gardening or classic cars, the time the two of you spend connecting will be cathartic.
- Get adequate sleep. At least 7-8 hours is ideal.
- Lean on a friend. It is tempting, and easy, to isolate yourself when you are struggling, but reaching out to call a friend or participating in your social circles will satisfy that need to belong. It will also give you purpose and will make you feel appreciated.
- Join a support group. Being able to share a similar experience of loss while offering a different perspective can be extremely beneficial. Sharing your grief with your loved ones can help, but sometimes leaning on people that are more objective of your situation can help you maintain rational thoughts and behavior.
- Reach out to a grief professional or mental health practitioner.